Thomas Demetrio, attorney for Dr. David Dao, the United Airlines passenger forcibly removed from a flight Sunday, has laid out his case against the airline.
At a news conference in Chicago, Demetrio accused United, and airlines generally, of "bullying" their customers. But he said the case of his client, the subject of a video that by now may have been viewed by everyone in the world, goes beyond the pale.
Demetrio told assembled media representatives that the case is a simple one. He said the law requires that when any individual is removed from a commercial aircraft, it must be done so without "excessive force."
"When excessive force is used to remove someone from an aircraft, the carrier is responsible," Demetrio said.
Dao, a physican based in Louisville, refused to give up his seat on a United flight to Louisville after the airline, at the last moment, tried to make room for four United employees scheduled for flights the next day in Louisville. Dao, on the final leg of a flight from Los Angeles, refused to leave, saying he had to see patients the next day.
The video of Dao being pulled from his seat and dragged down the aisle has sparked outrage around the world. Dao was released from a Chicago hospital last night after being treated from injuries stemming from the incident.
Demetrio says Dao suffered a confusion, a broken nose and two broken front teeth. He said his client will be required to undergo reconstructive surgery.
"Will there be a lawsuit?" Demetrio asked rhetorically. "Yeah, there probably will."
In his opening statement and question-and-answer period with reporters, Demetrio also made the case for changes within the airline industry, using the term "bullying" several times in describing United's treatment of its customers. He suggested there is something in the corporate culture of the nation's airlines that causes them to mistreat customers in search of higher profits.
And if United thought its PR nightmare could not get any worse, Demetrio revealed that Dao, as a child, was part of the Vietnamese "boat people" who fled the country after the fall of Saigon in leaky boats, seeking refuge in the U.S.
"Dr. Dao told me that as horrifying as that experience was, what happened to him on United was worse," Demetrio said.